‘A Separation’ Is International Favorite


IT’S NOT WORKING OUT: Simin and Nader are ready to go their separate ways, but other aspects of their lives stand in the way of their happiness.

Evan Ramirez, El Vaquero Staff Writer

What separates the Oscar-winning film “A Separation” from the also-rans resides in its storytelling. The Iranian film deviates from the standard Hollywood narrative, garnering praise and evoking raw emotions in its viewers, making “A Separation” a fantastic must-watch movie.

Directed by Asghar Farhadi, “A Separation” tells the story of an Iranian couple dealing with the decision of moving to another country with their daughter or staying in Iran to look after a parent who has Alzheimer’s. Much of the film revolves around the father’s dad and his caretaker, but to reveal anymore of the plot would be a disservice, as it’s best to watch it unfold. Rarely does a film nominated for the foreign language Oscar make its way out of that category and into something like original screenplay.

Farhadi’s searing portrayal of an Iranian couple wanting a divorce is just the backbone of “A Separation.” This allows the film to explore several different scenarios that wouldn’t have been available if the two characters were together.

People might think just because this film is from another country that it might be difficult to connect with. The opposite is true, and more so than any other film dealing with this subject matter in recent years, “A Separation” portrays it in a much more compelling and honest way than what’s normally seen. Rather than tell the story through one person, Farhadi uses each character as different points of reference for the audience.

Across the board the acting is phenomenal. The two leads, Peyman Maadi (“About Elly”) and Leila Hatami (“Leila”), are brilliant. While Maadi gets a majority of the screen time, the scenes involving the two are excellently crafted and acted. If the opening scene doesn’t get its hooks into you, this film just might not be for you.

Right from the start, Farhadi’s wonderful direction and even better screenplay occupy everything in the movie and never let go. Rather than letting the surroundings become dull and uninteresting, Farhadi often switches locations to help dialogue-driven scenes shine.

As good as the opening scene is, another conversation that the two have about three quarters of the way through the film is equally strong and much more emotional. After being with these characters for an hour and a half and watching them go through their ups and downs, it has much more of an impact.

In addition to Maadi and Hatami’s great work, newcomer Sareh Bayat delivers a performance that’s as good, if not better than the acting from the veterans in the cast. Along with Bayat, her husband in the film, portrayed by Shahab Hosseini, gives a spark to the picture in a few scenes that might have come across as dull if he weren’t present. Reminiscent of Romanian director Cristian Mungiu and his brilliant film “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days,” Farhadi just lets his actors act. It seems like an obvious thing but when it’s really working the audience will notice. The opening scene is a prime example of this, as most of it is one continuous shot.

Also giving a rather understated performance is the one person in the film that is truly at the center of it all. Sarina Farhadi plays Termeh, the daughter of our two main characters. She doesn’t have much to do in earlier parts of the film, but by the end she’s just as important as her parents, as portrayed in the final scene of the movie.

With an award-worthy script as well as its performances, the film is much more than an exploration of family problems. While it captures that effortlessly, it opens itself up for discussion about the human condition.

Like Abbas Kiarostami’s 2010 film “Certified Copy,” Farhadi poses questions that one might rarely think about, but that are so important when they actually come up. In such a dialogue heavy film like this or even the previously mentioned picture, pacing plays such a huge role and never does “A Separation” feel like a bore.

The wonderful thing about this picture is that after the film is over, there’s so much to talk about, and unlike so many other movies, there are dozens of aspects, most notably the family dynamic, that can be explored, and in turn it opens itself up for multiple viewings.

To speak to the film’s uniqueness, it offers something that is rarely seen. Hardly does a film nominated for the foreign language Oscar make its way out of that category and into something like best original screenplay. “A Separation” is one of those rare films that’s truly worthy of its worldwide praise. It’s a near perfect movie and that that makes it one of the best of 2011.

This film is rated PG-13 for mature thematic material and runs for 123 minutes.